JUST when it looked as if Ashington CFC’s season was dwindling away to an uneventful and unspectacular finale, up pop the inconsistent Colliers to produce one of the results of the campaign with a comprehensive and thoroughly deserved victory away to Newcastle Benfield.
In the last five weeks, Gary Middleton’s side have toppled previous league leaders Shildon, title chasing FA Vase finalists Whitley Bay and now high flying Benfield, the latter with aspirations of finishing runners-up.
It is a touch ironic that after Ashington had done Benfield a favour when they won 2-0 against Whitley Bay recently that the Woodhorn Lane outfit should do the same for the Seahorses – but laying favours aside, the victories sum up the Colliers season in a nutshell. They now occupy eighth spot in the division and apart from two maulings against Spennymoor and West Auckland completing the double over them, have taken at least three points in outings this term against the clubs immediately above them.
Saturday’s surprisingly comfortable win was built on the solid foundations of two goals in as many minutes during the first half by Phill Bell and Darren Lough.
But even before then, as early as the third minute, the Colliers fired a warning.
Stephen Young found Jonny Godsmark but just as he was about to shoot, the ball bobbled so when he crossed instead, Young and Bell were involved before Young’s shot was taken by Andrew Grainger.
Then James Taylor, Chris Scott and Young combined to produce a superb move down the right flank which ended with the ball striking Young and rolling to a grateful Grainger.
However in the 28th minute, the Colliers took the lead when a shot by Johnson deflected off a defender and spun up into the air where Bell made no mistake, heading past Grainger.
A couple of minutes later, Godsmark carved out the second.
The winger made a darting diagonal run from right to left and when he advanced into the area, laid the ball off to Lough who fired home left footed.
Adam Scope had an effort which was cleared by Lough but only as far as Scope who then drove wide.
But right on the stroke of half-time, Bell came within a whisker of adding a third.
The overlapping Lough was the supplier of a low cross driven at pace but Bell’s instinctive right footer smacked against the bar.
Even then, the Colliers were not finished with Johnson having two heading opportunities, the first which went across the face of the goal, the other which he put past Grainger’s right hand post.
Early in the second period, Chris Feasey’s shot was superbly saved by Ashington keeper Karl Dryden before a deep looping cross by Scott clipped the bar with Grainger back-peddling.
Grainger denied Johnson with a fine low save to his left before Bell grabbed his second to effectively put the seal on the result.
Johnson found Godsmark down the left and when he crossed to the far post, substitute Gareth Bainbridge’s goalbound header was blocked on the line by Grainger but Bell reacted to score with a brave header from the rebound.
In the closing stages, Dryden palmed away from the head of substitute Michael Chilton then the stopper kept the ball out with his foot to deny substitute Brian Dodsworth.
Ashington: Dryden, Taylor, Lough, O’Dea, Atkin, Rees, Godsmark (Mullen 79 minutes), Scott, Young (Bainbridge 70 minutes), Bell, Johnson. Subs not used: Dunn, Harmison, Blandford.
On Saturday, Ashington bring the curtain down on their season when they travel to face Consett (3pm).